I’m entering my 7th week of self-quarantine. I am healthy, my family is healthy, I am still employed. I recognize that I am in a uniquely blessed situation. Yet, even with this fortunate luck, I have found my emotions are like a rollercoaster and I am becoming increasingly aware of the taste of anxiety.
I have been a meditation practitioner my entire life (thanks Dad), I eat well, I have a good exercise habit, I practice gratitude, I journal, I have a great circle of friends and community. Still, I have found this time period a struggle. Last week I heard Stanford Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman on the James Altucher Show. He talked about three things to reduce stress & anxiety – James, being James found six things in there, but I’m going to stick to the three. These three things have helped me so much I’ve been sharing with anyone who will listen.
I’m not a scientist and this isn’t my work so I’ll summarize the basics and put links to the science behind it.
- Peripheral Vision. Basically Huberman says we have two types of vision, focal and peripheral. Focal, as it sounds, is for focusing on an object or position in space. Peripheral is our ability to see all around. Staying in the focal view all day – staring at a monitor, your phone, the same four walls, etc. causes our nervous system to feel stress and anxiety. Allowing our eyes to relax into the peripheral view relaxes the nervous system.
Find time throughout the day, it only takes a few seconds, and look at a vast scene. Even if it’s out a window, allow your eyes to relax into a panoramic view. From the window of my kitchen, I can look up and see the vastness of the sky above me. Just doing that for a few seconds gives me a sense of calm achieved from climbing to the top of a mountain and looking out.
2. Sunlight. Our eyeballs need sunlight all throughout the day and through sunset. Without this sunlight our bodies essentially experience jetlag. Take moments throughout the day to allow sunshine into your eyeballs – even if it’s through a window. We also should not be looking at a bright light – light bulbs, phones, etc. throughout the night as this will also disturb our natural rhythms. I allow sunshine into my eyeballs while I’m looking at the sky – two birds, one stone.
3. Yoga Nidra Breathing. Yoga Nidra does not involve placing our bodies in various poses, rather it focuses on the breath part of the breath with movement that is yoga. There are tons of videos and audio tracks to get much deeper into this practice and teach you deep relaxation, help you fall asleep, feel more rested, and combat anxiety. The exercise he spoke of in this interview was simple – take two quick breaths in through the nose and one long exhale through the mouth. He explains this in terms of the quantity of CO2 and Oxygen being exchanged and the effect that has on the nervous system. The bottom line is, at least for me, it works extremely well.
So, around 4-5 times a day I go down to my kitchen and let my eyes relax and take in the sky, I allow the sunshine to get into my eyeballs and I take 2 quick breaths in through my nose and one big exhale out my mouth. It takes less than 30 seconds and I instantly feel the nipping of anxiety drop away.
This is not intended to diminish the pain of an anxiety disorder nor as a universal solution. This is a scientist that I heard who made sense and the practices helped me and I’m sharing them.